Ask any group of pirates and they’ll tell you bone-chilling tales of terror on the open seas. From hurricanes to tsunamis, sailing the oceans can be a perilous business. But weather isn’t the only danger to contend with. There’s always the fear of being attacked by gigantic sea creatures!
Or at least that’s what most pirates will tell you. But can you really believe them? After all, pirates can be a shifty bunch.
There are certainly plenty of legends that pirates can point to as evidence of their fear of humongous sea monsters. One such legendary creature is called the Kraken. These legendary massive sea monsters supposedly lived in the depths of the sea off the coasts of Norway and Iceland.
Kraken comes from the German word for octopus. This is probably why artists have often painted the Kraken as a large creature with many arms that could reach as high as the top of a ship’s main mast.
Legends hold that the Kraken would attack a ship and sink it by wrapping its many arms around the ship. The ship’s crew would either drown or be eaten by the monster.
Almost certainly mythical tales, the Kraken legends may have been based in part on a real creature: the giant squid. Giant squid have long tentacles and can grow up to 40-50 feet in length. They usually live deep in the sea, but they’ve been known to surface and attack ships from time to time.
The Kraken gained literary fame in 1830 when Alfred Tennyson published his sonnet called The Kraken. In it, he described a huge sea creature that lived in the depths of the ocean:
Below the thunders of the upper deep; Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
Today, the Kraken is alive and well in popular culture, including video games and theme park rides. Two recent movies — Clash of the Titans and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — have also featured exciting scenes in which the Kraken attacks from the depths of the sea!